A Citation 525 is the latest aircraft to join the fleet at Belgium-based operator Air Service Liege, and more aircraft are expected later on this year. A King Air 350 is due to arrive in April, followed by a CitationJet the following month.
The managed aircraft will operate from the company's base in Antwerp, where much of the fleet is situated. Managing director Philippe Bodson explained the choice of aircraft: "The Citation 525 is the perfect tool for the owner who flies shorter European routes, usually with three or four passengers.
"It was also the best price and, as it will be used for charter, it is important that the aircraft is suitable for commercial operations.
The aeroplane should be flying around 500 hours a year - 200 with the owner and 300 for charter, so we needed an extra plane to respond to the demand.
"Although we already operate a CJ2 as part of the fleet, the owner uses it frequently, which only leaves about 10 per cent of its flights available for charter."
The firm also plans to construct a new hangar, and the company's intention to develop the market east of Belgium, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands, remains a permanent fixture on the agenda.
Bodson is certain that the market will be good in 2006, with high demand for business coming from Belgium and other European countries. Conditions have improved steadily since 2003. Last year, Air Service Liege increased its turnover by 40 per cent, Bodson said. To balance the business further, the company runs cargo flights and an air ambulance service, which combined generate around 40 per cent of its turnover.
Despite the constant pressure from competitors within Belgium and abroad, Bodson is confident that all parties can prosper: "We are always concerned about our rivals but you have to live with the fact that you will always have competitors. I believe the market is big enough for everyone to do well."
The company is also keen to develop its presence in the charter aircraft industry in Germany and the Netherlands. Although it had planned the move since 2004, the company said it has been too occupied to look for opportunities elsewhere.